IT'S a reduced Football League programme this weekend but Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) has still found three fancies worth following in League One and League Two.
Rochdale v Southend | Saturday 15.00
Rochdale have finished in the top-half of the third-tier table just three times in 46 years but remarkably, two of those occasions have come in the past two seasons as Keith Hill’s expert tutorship continues to defy pre-season predictions.
Operating with the division’s lowest budget, the Lancashire outfit surpassed their 2014/15 points total by six but bookmakers chalked Dale up as the 18th most likely side to finish top of the tree this term, at odds of 40/1.
Having started the season without a win in seven (W0-D3-L4) and propping up the table in mid-September, supporters were understandably getting a little twitchy. But there’s a huge amount of trust in ‘King Keith’ and I’m sure we all expected a Rochdale revival sooner than later.
The Spotland side have since churned out four successive victories against Fleetwood, Millwall, Bolton and Charlton to climb back into the upper echelons of the League One standings and look a decent bet at 15/16 (Marathon) to extend that winning streak on Saturday against Southend.
Mike Holden’s (@Ratings_Mike) Expected Points Difference column suggests Rochdale have overperformed by almost a point this season and although the hosts’ expected goals scored/against rate is almost slap bang average when viewed alongside their divisional rivals, there’s plenty to be positive about.
Injuries and suspensions have hit Hill’s charges hard already this campaign and Matty Lund’s international call-up will rob Dale of a key midfield man this weekend. However, their record against bottom-half dwellers is hard to ignore, especially with almost a full compliment of players available for Saturday.
Since promotion to League One and excluding 2016/17, Rochdale have W27-D11-L10 when taking on sides that finished in 13th and below – that’s a 56% win ratio that improves to 67% when viewing their return at Spotland (W16-D5-L3).
This term, 11 points from a possible 15 have picked up against current bottom-half opposition whilst it’s also noteworthy to see the Dale ranked sixth in the current shot ratio standings – their share of the total shots attempted across their 11 matches – and ninth when purely viewing attempts on-target.
It’s all very positive and although a W2-D1-L2 return from their first five matches as hosts doesn’t inspire, it’s encouraging to see Hill’s troops comfortably winning the shot and corner count, even in such a small sample.
For Southend, the Shrimpers have lost 14/28 (50%) road trips since arriving in League One under Phil Brown but their W2-D3-L7 efforts at top-half teams last season left little to be desired. The Blue have W1-D1-L3 in games as guests this term with all five home side’s currently sitting in the top-eight.
Bar a barely believable 3-0 triumph at Sheffield United, Southend have been largely overrun when outside of Roots Hall. They’ve already 62 shots (20 of which were on-target) and somehow escaped with a point when travelling to Bolton at the start of September.
Overall, only three clubs boast a worse expected goals scored figure – it’s a smidgen over 1.1 goals per-game – and only Port Vale (41.04%) and Walsall (41.06%) have managed a lower shot ratio figure than Southend’s 41.20%. Oh… and Jason Demetriou is on international duty.
All things considered, I reckon there’s decent value in a home win here.
Accrington v Cheltenham | Saturday 15.00
The halcyon days when Accrington were a no-look banker in the Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals markets has receded slightly following a rather uninspiring September. But don’t let that put you off a BTTS bet at 28/29 (188BET) this weekend.
Four of Stanley’s five League Two outings last month failed to deliver more than two goals but our Both Teams To Score selection proved profitable in three of those fixtures, ensuring 8/11 (73%) winners overall in 2016/17 league football.
Boss John Coleman has been working overtime to clamp down on the defensive naivety that has plagued Accy over the past 15 months or so and although there’s been obvious improvements, I’m not at all convinced that their backline problems have been solved just yet.
Despite Portsmouth failing to land an attempt on-target at the Crown Ground in mid-September during a 1-0 Accrington win, the hosts have still faced 24 on-target efforts on home soil this season – that’s an average of 4.80 per-game, even including that Pompey triumph.
Only Mansfield boast a better expected goals conceded rate per-game but Stanley have recorded just six (21%) clean sheets in front of their own fans since the start of last season and considering Coleman’s men have scored in all bar one of those encounters, it’s no surprise to see BTTS bank on 22 (79%) occasions.
Cheltenham’s return to the Football League hasn’t been as seamless as many proposed after the Robins ran away with the National League title last term.
Gary Johnson’s team have W1-D6-L4 but six of their opponents currently reside in the top-eight positions of League Two. Still, Town have posted respectable performance data figures and have only fired a solitary blank in their five away days thus far.
In fact, four of those games as guests rewarded Both Teams To Score backers as Cheltenham have posted only two shutouts since promotion.
The Robins have however notched at least twice and fired in 24 efforts at Newport and Yeovil in their most recent two road trips and are performing above average in the expected goals data.
I’m confident Cheltenham can find the net at the Crown Ground and with BTTS chalked up at almost evens despite a 79% success rate in Accrington’s home games since 2015/16, I’m snapping up the huge value on offer from 188BET.
Yeovil v Wycombe | Saturday 15.00
Three victories in four have quietened a few of Gareth Ainsworth’s critics at Wycombe and the 5-1 shellacking handed out to Crewe 10 days ago suggests the Chairboys shouldn’t yet be written off as League Two also-rans.
Wanderers uncharacteristically conceded 10 goals in three defeats on the spin against Colchester, Luton and Portsmouth around about a month ago but Ainsworth has since gone back to basics and Wycombe have leaked just twice in the following 360 minutes.
‘Wild Thing’ is now in his fourth full season as Chairboys boss and the overriding trends pinpoint low-scoring duels. Indeed, 95/149 (64%) of Wycombe’s league matches since 2013/14 have delivered fewer than three goals with 52 (35%) failing to feature more than a solitary strike.
Those stats are also perfectly mirrored in performances outside of their Adams Park too – 48/74 (65%) have won for Under 2.5 Goals backers and 27/74 (36%) were also profitable for Under 1.5 Goals hunters.
However, narrowing that sample further to just include results on the road since the beginning of 2015/16, we can highlight even more commanding trends – 21/28 (75%) of Wanderers’ away days produced two goals or fewer with 12/28 (43%) featuring zero or one total goal scored.
Exclude those aforementioned hammerings at Luton and Portsmouth and Wycombe have seen their other three fixtures on their travels feature only two goals. With all the hatches being battened down by Ainsworth, I’d be counting on another low-scoring contest this weekend.
Forward quality is a little thin on the ground in Buckinghamshire but the Chairboys do excel in organisation, physicality and work-rate and I’d fancy the visitors to give Yeovil a stern examination at Huish Park.
The Glovers have a habit for lowing midfield battles against more aggressive opponents but on home soil you’d assume Darren Way’s men will be ready to scrap. And Town’s penchant for low-scoring duels – especially as hosts – means I’m more than happy to invest faith in a repeat here.
Yeovil have kept their sheets clean in 8/18 (44%) Huish Park encounters under Way with 13 (72%) of those ties falling below the three-goal line whilst nine (50%) delivered the goods for Under 1.5 Goals backers.
The Glovers have scored more than one goal on just four occasions in that 18-match sample and like their guests, Town’s expected goals rate is below the divisional average after 11 matches this season.
This could be a real scrap so I’ll back Under 2.25 Goals – also displayed as Under 2/2.5 Goals with certain bookmakers – at 13/15 with 188BET.
This selection sees our stake split evenly between Under 2 Goals and Under 2.5 Goals – this means, should one goal or zero goals be scored, we’ll have a full-stakes profit to celebrate. But if the game features exactly two goals, we’ll see half our stake returned as a push with the second half deemed a winner.
Essentially, we’re making money if the match produces fewer than three goals with a bigger pay-out at 13/15 should fewer than two goals be scored. If three or more goals are seen, we finish empty-handed.